To grow, office wallflower must branch out

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “I am a professional, focused, detail-oriented employee who is often described as a “quiet person”.  Instead of seeing my calm reserve as an asset, my colleagues tend to criticize me for it.  One of my co-workers, who is also a good friend, is very outgoing and frequently outspoken.  Management recently named her the “point person” while our boss is out on medical leave, which means she will be supervising me. In my work, I am much more precise than she is. Also, I have worked here for 11 years, while she has been here only six. This betrayal has made me incredibly angry. I may not be as outgoing, but I am a better worker and have been here longer.  What should I do about this?”  —Betrayed & Bitter

Answer:  You haven't been betrayed. Management simply chose someone else to fill in for your boss. And that decision should have been based on leadership ability, not seniority or work precision.  

Because managing requires a specific set of skills, the best worker does not necessarily make the best manager.  Or even the best temporary supervisor.  

For one thing, all managers must be able to interact effectively with others. Because you communicate infrequently, the higher-ups may question your interpersonal skills. They also may not know you very well.  

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being quiet. As you point out, quiet people often focus on details more intently and provide a calming presence in the workplace.  

But if you want to get ahead, being an office wallflower may hold you back. Because familiarity reduces risk, decision-makers tend to promote people whom they know and trust.

Instead of stewing in your resentment, take the initiative to discuss your career goals with someone in management or human resources. Preparing for the next opportunity is more important than complaining about the loss of this one.

To assess your own personality, take our Quick Quiz: Are You More Extroverted or Introverted?

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